5.1 General context
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The youth policy goal for all government decisions and actions affecting young people between 13 and 25 is:
‘All young people should have good living conditions, the power to shape their lives and influence over society.’
The third part of the objective, i.e. influence over the development of society, is an explicit goal stating that young people are to be included in society and that they have an explicit right to exert influence. This means that young people should have the opportunity to participate in political decision-making, influencing issues of importance to society at large, and not only have a say in matters that immediately concern them.
Because the group of young people is comprised of both minors and adult persons, the degree of influence changes over time. The Swedish youth policy is consistent with the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) that links rights for participation to age and maturity.
When it comes to the formal decision-making processes, the stated policy is that it is important for young people to be represented in the elected assemblies and thereby become involved in political decisions.
Sweden’s constitutional structure and main representative institutions
Sweden is a parliamentary democracy, which means that all public power proceeds from the people.
At national level, the people are represented by the Riksdag (Swedish parliament) which has legislative power. The Government implements the Riksdag’s decisions and draws up proposals for new laws or law amendments.
At regional level, Sweden is divided into 21 regions. The regions are responsible for overseeing tasks that cannot be handled at the local level by municipalities but which rather require coordination across a larger region, most notably health care. The regions are entitled to levy income taxes to cover their costs. At regional level, there are also county administrative boards (länsstyrelser) that are government bodies for the counties.
At local level, Sweden is divided into 290 municipalities, each with an elected assembly or council. Municipalities are responsible for a broad range of facilities and services including housing, roads, schools, public welfare, elderly care and childcare. Municipalities are entitled to levy income taxes on individuals. They also charge for various services. As a result, municipalities have significant latitude in deciding what services they should offer. They are however legally obliged to provide certain basic services.
General elections are held in Sweden every four years. Voting is not compulsory. Voters may cast a ballot for a constituency party list, or for a specific candidate. On the same occasion, elections are held at national, regional and local levels to the Riksdag (Swedish parliament), region assemblies and municipal councils respectively.